Six of the best Yorkshire ciders
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This was a tough one to write but Tony Greenway had no complaints
The first alcoholic drink I ever tasted was cider. So was yours, probably. That’s because cider is a drink you try as a sort of teenage rite of passage (we’re not suggesting you DO, mind – please be drink aware) and, as a result, it’s not taken altogether seriously in some hardcore (no pun intended) drinking circles. Not like real ale, I would say, or a decent single malt whisky.
For example, my older brother, hilarious wag that he is, will often say to a barman: ‘I’ll have a pint of your guest bitter, plus (jerking his thumb at me) half a cider for the boy.’ But this disparaging of cider (not to say me) is unfair, I reckon. When cider is cold, clean and refreshing there’s nothing to touch it.
Then there’s scrumpy, of course. I rather like scrumpy, even though some of the rough stuff I’ve tasted (down Somerset way) had apple cores and bits of pith and peel floating on the top which was a bit off-putting. Plus the after effects of the really strong scrumpy feel, I imagine, what it might be like to be whacked around the back of the head with a cricket bat by Geoff Capes. And don’t get me started on calvados. If you DO get me started on calvados, I’ll probably end the evening by trying to limbo dance under your chair — and no-one wants to see that.
Hooray for apples, then. And hooray for autumn when those apples fall from the trees. And triple hooray for those fine people in Yorkshire who pick them up, work their magic and turn them into such pleasant beverages.
Ampleforth Abbey Cider & Cider Brandy
Ampleforth’s cider and brandy production isn’t some vast, faceless industrial concern. In fact, one man, Father Rainer Verborg, lovingly makes this fabulous tipple from apples in the abbey’s own orchard, and he does it the traditional way. The result is a cider that is dry and strong (8.3%) while the brandy is aged in oak barrels for five years and comes in at a spirited 40%. Holy moly: it’s good stuff.
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Abbey Lands Tyson’s Tipple
I spent a laidback Saturday afternoon with some friends at Ryedale Vineyards this summer, which is run by the wine-making team of Stuart and Elizabeth Smith. First of all we were given a tour of the vineyards (Elizabeth’s department) and the winery (Stuart’s) and then we moved into the garden for sampling.
It wasn’t exactly hell. The Wolds View and Yorkshire Sunset wine was particularly good and so was the Tyson’s Tipple Cider made from local apples and a few pears. You don’t drink Tyson’s Tipple from a pint glass (well, you could if you want to, I suppose — I won’t try to stop you). Instead, we bought a bottle and sipped it in small amounts, and it’s excellent. ‘But is it cider?’ asked Stuart cryptically. ‘Or is it apple wine?’ I don’t know, frankly, and he didn’t answer his own question — but I’d certainly like some more of it.
Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider
Available, you’ll be pleased to know, all over the place, this is produced from organically grown apples at the oldest brewery in Yorkshire. Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider is medium dry with a lovely light colour and a fabulous clean apple taste. It’s suitable for vegans too and is registered with The Vegan Society.
Pure North Cider Press, Holmfirth
Rob North started making cider with apples from the old orchard in the grounds of his 200-year-old farm house. The result is the Pure North brand which has been commercially available since 2010. Did I mention these artisan ciders are also rather wonderful? Rob says the poor summer of 2012 meant a poor apple harvest (but he still made excellent cider); but after 2013’s blazing hot summer, he reckons this will be a vintage year. We’re looking forward to it.
Made by the Great Yorkshire Brewery this 5% cider is branded thus: ‘Made in God’s own country. Tastes like apples and nowt else’. Which kind of says it all, really.
Moorlands Farm Cyder
Moorlands Farm Cyder and Apple Juice is the inspired creation of Rob and Caroline Gibbon — based in North Newbald near York — who needed to find a way to compensate for a decline in income from beef farming. It comes in 6.2% and 4% versions, and is available from a very long list of delis, farm shops, pubs and restaurants. Dee-lish.